When we first discussed adoption, early in our marriage, older children was not a consideration, and definitely not children with serious medical issues. But our situation with Pipo fell into our laps. Or to be more accurate, came crashing in over our heads! We never really stopped to consider what we were getting into, or how it would affect our lives. That said, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Two years down the line I am amazed at the benefits I have seen of adopting an older child with medical issues. While we were waiting for Pipo to get here, I read everything I could get my hands on about adoption, including the books our social worker gave us. The one big word that kept popping up was ‘attachment’. I knew this was one of the biggest struggles with older children, but I was at least confident in what I had heard about Pipo’s past. He had had a loving family… a healthy start towards attachment. But even so, he was an almost 9 year old kid, being dropped into a foreign country with a bunch of strangers. Who knew if he would trust us, if he would like us, if he would ever begin to love us?
Almost immediately after his arrival, he was hospitalized. He was so sick and weak. I spent the entire week with him, and it was a long stressful event. Everything was new to him. As soon as we were admitted, we had to take an elevator up to the 7th floor. Fitz and I walked him onto it without even thinking. He flipped out. Completely. Screaming, crying, grabbing onto us for dear life. Thus began a week’s worth of elevator trips to different parts of the hospital for the many tests he would go through. And for every trip, I would have to sit on the floor of the elevator and hold him in a bear hug while he cried. Talk about forced trust.
As the week went on, each scary experience would have him turning to me more and more. With his limited English, he learned “Mama” very quickly, and yelled for me as soon as a nurse or doctor came near. I quickly became his strongest supporter, the one person he knew he could turn to. He trusted me.
Not that attachment happened overnight with that hospital stay, but it was a big leap we made there. A big step in the right direction. Once we were home, we settled into a routine of doctors visits and medications. He slowly started to get stronger and healthier. For him, this was a blatant, physical sign of our love for him. He knew he could trust us, knew we loved him because he could visibly see us taking care of him each and every day. In his Sunday school class this year, his teacher asked the kids to write notes thanking someone important in their lives. Pipo wrote a note to me and Fitz, starting right off with “thank you for taking care of me, thank you for giving me my medicine.” To a boy who spent much of his life sick, and in the hospital, this is a huge thing for him. Two people who care enough about him to make sure he gets well.
Even now that he is doing so much better, we have many trips into Boston to the different specialists he sees. Each of those trips averages 3 hours of travel time. 3 hours of one on one with me in a car. I worried that he would tire of these trips, but honestly he loves them. He loves the time alone, and loves the fact that he gets a lunch out with mom. We have so many great conversations on these trips. Some days he is telling me about his favorite TV shows, some days he tells me stories about school. And some days are more serious. He asks me why he is sick, why there is no cure for FSGS, why his mom had to die, why Haiti is so unsafe. I don’t have many answers for him, but together we try to figure them all out. He told me recently he wants to be a policeman, to help people. But he wants to go to Haiti and make things safe for people.
In a house with 7 kids, it could be easy to get lost. These trips to Boston are a guaranteed time for him to be heard, and I treasure them. For anyone considering adopting an older child with medical needs, please consider all these thoughts. It’s a beautiful thing. Our lives have changed because of one little boy. And any worries I had about his kidney disease affecting us… it has been the opposite. As much as I would like to make him well, to erase this sickness, and finally find a cure, FSGS has helped us in a strange way. It has showed him he can trust us, It has showed him we love him, and that we are in this for the long haul. And he’s right… this love is forever.